Does formalized prayer actually lead young people to a meaningful relationship with God?
"When you pray, do not be like the hypocrites! They love to stand up and pray in the houses of worship and on the street corners, so that everyone will see them. I assure you, they have already been paid in full. But when you pray, go to your room, close the door, and pray to your Father, who is unseen. And your Father, who sees what you do in private, will reward you.
"When you pray, do not use a lot of meaningless words, as the pagans do, who think that their gods will hear them because their prayers are long. Do not be like them. Your Father already knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray:
'Our Father in heaven: May your holy name be honored; may your Kingdom come; may your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today the food we need. Forgive us the wrongs we have done, as we forgive the wrongs that others have done to us. Do not bring us to hard testing, but keep us safe from the Evil One.' "If you forgive others the wrongs they have done to you, your Father in heaven will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done. (Matthew 6:5-15 Good News Bible)
When I started grade school prayer in public school had just been outlawed. College students and civil leaders yelled and hurled rocks through windows protesting the Vietnam Conflict. The papers contained articles about people burning the American Flag.
As the years went by we complained about doing the ritual of a moment of silence, followed by saying the Pledge of Allegiance to America and finished by singing "My Country Tis of Thee". These rituals failed to make me feel patriotic.
By the early 1980's, the anti-war songs of the late sixties and early seventies became classics. The Vietnam Conflict taught in colleges seemed slanted on the side of the people who fled to Canada to avoid the draft.
The American-Vietnam Conflict was a battle that the general public forgot what we fought for.
A movie co-directed by and starred John Wayne out on VHS and DVD called The Green Berets released in 1968 by Warner Brothers based on a novel by Robin Moore depicted the Vietnam Conflict well. It was the first movie made about Vietnam and answered a burning question. If you haven't seen it yet. Pick it up while it is still available.
Originally the North Vietnamese were systematically wiping out South Vietnamese teachers, scholars, and political leaders.
When I joined the US Army in the mid-eighties, I met men who had served in the Vietnam War and heard their story for the first time. Like the soldiers before them and the soldiers who served after them, they served the United States with honor.
Slowly, as I grew to respect the soldiers who had risked their life for me, the Pledge of Allegiance had meaning.
Formalizing respect for my country in school did not lead to a meaningful relationship with my country. Only after I developed a sense of patriotism from knowing patriots was I glad I learned the the Pledge of Allegiance.
It also follows that formalized prayer in school may not lead to a meaningful relationship with God. Meeting and living among people who follow Christ's ways, so that children can learn from their example is what Christians should be fighting for.
You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead it is put on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 from the Good News Bible)
Researching Religious Information: Smatterings guide to getting the most out of on-line Bibles.
Bible Interpretations Tips on Bible interpretation and Bible version info.
School Prayer in the Classroom a debate against atheism and for formalized prayer in the classroom.
I cried to him with my mouth. He was extolled with my tongue. If I cherished sin in my heart, the Lord wouldn't have listened. But most certainly, God has listened. He has heard the voice of my prayer.
(Psalm 66:17-19 HNV)
He who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.
(Proverbs 28:9 HNV)